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Mickelson running away from field at Pebble Beach

Posted: Sunday, February 13, 2005

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Phil Mickelson finally found a situation to tone down his attacking style.

With a dominant performance not seen on the Monterey Peninsula since Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open, Mickelson blew away the field Saturday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with a 5-under 67, giving him a seven-shot lead and a tournament record for the third straight day.

Despite 24 victories on the PGA Tour, Lefty has never had a lead this large.

''I don't want to do anything stupid,'' Mickelson said. ''But I don't want to play defensive, either.''

Then again ...

''With this many strokes, I also can take a few chances, too,'' Mickelson said with a playful grin. ''Maybe I might hit driver in a certain spot that I wouldn't otherwise, because I'm OK if I happen to have a penalty shot or what have you. So it might lead to some different play. We'll see.''

Either way, it appears his final round could be nothing more than a walk along the beach.

Mickelson rapped in a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach to finish the three-course rotation at 20-under 196, breaking by two shots the 54-hole scoring record set by David Duval in 1997. All he needs to do Sunday is shoot anything under par to break the 72-hole tournament record that Mark O'Meara set that year.

''Fabulous. It feels terrific,'' Mickelson said.

Only an eagle by Greg Owen kept Mickelson's lead from being even larger.

Owen, a 32-year-old from England who made it through all three stages of Q-school last year, hit a 4-iron into 12 feet on the par-5 18th at Poppy Hills for a 67. He had no idea the size of Mickelson's lead until informed by reporters, and it didn't take long for him to realize the size of his task.

''You've just got to make birdie on every hole,'' Owen said.

Mickelson's seven-shot lead was the largest on the PGA Tour since David Toms led by the same margin last year in Memphis. And it had the same feel as Woods' record-setting performance at Pebble in the 2000 U.S. Open, when he took a 10-shot lead into the final round and won by 15.

Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal had a 68 at Poppy Hills and was in a large group at 11-under 205 that included Kevin Sutherland, Paul Goydos and Tim Clark of South Africa.

Mike Weir of Canada had a 73 at Spyglass Hill and dropped back to 206, 10 shots out of the lead.

Vijay Singh will have to watch the final round from home. The world's No. 1 player became the fourth straight defending champion to miss the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Singh had another 73 to finish at 3-over 219, ending his streak at 28 consecutive cuts.

Mickelson could not have done much worse than his 67. He missed four birdie putts inside 15 feet on his first six holes, picking up one birdie when his sand wedge stopped 3 feet away at No. 4.

He began to pull away with a sand wedge into 15 feet on the 106-yard seventh, then a 5-iron to 12 feet below the cup on the dangerous eighth hole. His only bogey came on No. 10, when his 8-iron sailed longed into a bunker and he missed his 15-foot par putt.

There was not much excitement with Mickelson, which for him was a nice change. He kept the ball in play, and relied on a variety of iron shots that have made him a more complete player. One of those shots came at No. 16, when he took two clubs less — a 9-iron from 123 yards — to control the flight and reduce the spin. He stuck that inside 15 feet.

A victory Sunday looks likely, but not even Mickelson was buying into that.

''I know the guys behind me are coming after me,'' Mickelson said.

Billy Andrade had the best round of the day, a 9-under 63 at Pebble Beach that left him only 11 shots behind.

''He won last week, so he's on a high,'' Andrade said. ''And when you're on a high, the game is pretty easy. And right now, that's what he's doing. He's a world-class player, he has been a great player since he was 5. So this isn't a big shock that he has all of a sudden elevated his game.''

Owen has played exclusively on the European tour the last seven years, winning the British Masters two years ago. He had back surgery last year that kept him out for four months, then decided a change of scenery might bring a change of luck, so he brought his game to America.

Owen had only seen Pebble Beach on a video game, but he's finding it too his liking.

As for Mickelson?

''I've never played with the guy,'' he said. ''I never got to meet him. I think he's phenomenal. Phil seems to hit and see what comes of it, and takes it on. He's firing on all cylinders this year.''

Women's World Cup of Golf

GEORGE, South Africa — Catriona Matthew and Janice Moodie combined for a 4-under 69 in alternate-shot play to give Scotland a share of the second-round lead in the Women's World Cup.

Japan's Ai Miyazato and Rui Kitada had a 72 to match Matthew and Moodie at 5-under 140 on Fancourt's Links course. Italy's Diana Luna and Giulia Sergas (75) were a stroke back, and South Korea's Jeong Jang and Bo Bae Song (68) followed at 3 under.

Americans Meg Mallon and Beth Daniel (74) were 2 under along with Australia's Karrie Webb and Rachel Hetherington (75) and England's Laura Davies and Karen Stupples (74).

The tournament will end Sunday with individual stroke play.

New Zealand Open

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — England's Oliver Wilson shot a 4-under 68 to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the New Zealand Open.

Wilson, seeking his first European tour title, had a 17-under 199 total on the Gulf Harbour course. England's Miles Tunnicliff was second after a 70.

The event is co-sanctioned by the PGA European Tour and the Australasian PGA Tour.



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